Pine martens are to be reintroduced to the south west - after 150 years of absence.

Pine martens are part of the weasel – also known as mustelid – family of animals. Other members include stoats, polecats and otters.

The species disappeared from the region around 150 years ago.

Now a partnership of conservation bodies including Dartmoor National Park Authority, Devon Wildlife Trust, Exmoor National Park Authority, the National Trust and the Woodland Trust hopes to reintroduce the species.

Together the conservation bodies have launched the Two Moors Pine Marten Project to explore the possibility of bringing pine martens back to the region. The plans are being seen as an important positive step in response to the wider crisis facing the UK’s nature.

In recent months, the partnership has begun discussing the proposals with people, farmers, landowners and other stakeholders in two areas – one in Exmoor National Park, and the other in Dartmoor National Park.

The first pine martens could then be released in stages beginning in autumn 2024.

South West Farmer:

The pine marten was once Britain’s second most common carnivore, until a loss of habitat and persecution led to their drastic nationwide decline, and their extinction from south west England in the 1880s.

Now it is Britain’s second least common carnivore and is judged to be ‘critically endangered’ in England and Wales.

Populations have survived in Scotland and parts of Northern England, while successful reintroductions have taken place recently in Mid Wales and the Forest of Dean.

Pine martens are seen as a vital missing part in thriving and fully functioning ecosystems, especially the nation’s woodlands.

In 2021, an expert-led study by the Vincent Wildlife Trust, with the support of Natural England and NatureScot, identified the south west as the most suitable and highest priority British region for pine marten reintroduction.

The Two Moors Pine Marten Project is working with experts and local stakeholders to determine what the animal’s reintroduction would mean to other wildlife, agriculture, shooting estates and woodland management. If reintroduction were to take place, the animals’ progress would be closely monitored by the project.

South West Farmer:

Pine martens are solitary animals and most active at night. They live at low density, with a few animals spread over a large area. Their diets are made up of bank and field voles, plus wild berries, insects, birds, eggs and squirrels.

Sarah Bryan, chief executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: "We’re pleased to be looking at the possibility of making these charismatic creatures part of Exmoor’s rich natural heritage once again. The next step will be to talk with local people and those with direct experience of pine martens to determine if reintroduction is right for Exmoor and, if so, how we can work together to design a successful reintroduction programme.”

To find out more about the Two Moors Pine Marten Project visit